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When travelling by train through several countries, for example, from Norway to Spain, travellers typically have to buy multiple separate tickets. Perhaps Oslo - Malmö, Malmö – Hamburg, Hamburg – Paris, Paris – Madrid might work. If using a service such as thetrainline, booking might be made easier, but one still gets multiple tickets. This is fine when everything goes well, but has consequences for passenger rights in case of missed connections due to delays or cancellations.

Do through tickets between arbitrary pairs of cities or stations such as Oslo - Madrid or Paris - Bucharest theoretically exist? They're not for sale on websites, but are there any other channels through which they could be sold, or do they simply not exist at all? I've used dedicated travel agents such as the Treinreiswinkel in the past, but was still issued seperate tickets. Of course, they do exist and are bookable online for some connections (Amsterdam - Barcelona, Hamburg - Milano), but I mean for arbitrary city pairs (like they exist for flights between almost all major airports, I believe). The question here is not whether they can be booked online (generally not), but if they theoretically exist at all (even if very difficult to buy in practice).

I am aware demand for this service is very small. Maybe 60 years ago, one could turn up at the station in Oslo and buy a through-ticket to Madrid? If it was possible in the past, the question would be: have those tickets ceased to exist, or just made (nearly?) impossible to buy?

(I seem to recall Interrail/EUrail + reservations may count as a single through ticket, but in this case the costs of replacing missed connections are relatively small compared to regular tickets, so I'm interested in the regular case.)

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Aug 29 at 16:28
  • You mean "within Europe" or perhaps Eurasia, right? You're not trying to book from Paris to Santiago or Sydney to Vancouver? But also you're perhaps not interested in Ottawa to Santiago or Miami to Vancouver? Aug 29 at 17:10
  • @KateGregory Pretty much, yes. To be honest, not many places outside Eurasia have international trains. There are a few in North America and Africa and none in South America afaik.
    – gerrit
    Aug 29 at 17:15
  • It is certainly possible for specific pairs of cities but I sense you want to be able to do it more generally. Is that the case?
    – mdewey
    Aug 30 at 12:20
  • @mdewey Yes, it is. Like we can do for (almost) any pair of airports.
    – gerrit
    Aug 30 at 12:33

2 Answers 2

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In the past ticket prices in Europe were purely distance based. So all a ticket clerk in Oslo had to do to issue a ticket to Paris is look up how many km. that involved in Norway, how many in Sweden, Denmark, German, Belgium and France. Add up the costs of those segments and then he could issue a ticket. I have spend time with ticket clerks buying ticket from my home town in Belgium to places as far as Rome, Poprad Tatry and Brest. Tickets were written by hand at that time, and it took some time to issue them. Tickets were typically also valid for 2 months, so you take your time getting to your destination.

That changed with more and more trains requiring reservations, and having flexible pricing systems. A consequence for that is that to for example book you a TGV first a seat must be claimed for you in the reservations system, because only then is the price known. And that you have to do for each train with compulsory reservation. However the old system is still used too. If you for example book a trip from Gent in Belgium to Interlaken in Switzerland the system first will try to find seats for you on the Brussels Paris - Basel TGVs, and will then just add coupons for the Gent - Brussel and Basel - Interlaken sections, based on distance.

This makes it however a lot more complex to sell tickets, especially between railways with different ticketing philosophies.There are several sites that try to do something about that. One is https://www.international-bahn.de/en/ run by the German railways, and there are private initiatives like trainline.com.

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Before 2020 you could buy a Moscow - Nice sleeper train ticket which would take you through Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and then into France.

Russian Railways had quite a few such routes, such as Moscow - Bar (Montenegro) or Saint Petersburg - Prague.

COVID put an end to this and the war supplied a nice tombstone.

There was also Moscow - Ulan Bator - Beijing train. This one may even run one day if China relaxes its COVID response.

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  • All of those are single services, and not a combination of train on a same ticket which is what OP is asking for Aug 29 at 4:51
  • Just combine it with a Nice-Barcelona train and there you go. I think there was a possibility to do that since SNCF sold both AVE and sleeper tickets.
    – alamar
    Aug 29 at 8:08

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